Could Mother Nature be the latest curse on Mussina’s career-long quest?
by Matthew Taylor
Were bad weather in Boston to wash out former Oriole Mike Mussina’s final pitching appearance of the season on Sunday it would continue a strange string of bad luck for the pitcher in his career-long quest to win 20 games. Even if the doubleheader is played, Mussina faces no small task in opposing Dice-K with win No. 20 on the line.
Baseball Library provides the rundown of past quirks that have kept Mussina from that traditional mark of pitching greatness.
“His failure to reach the 20-win benchmark had more to do with bad luck than bad pitches. The player’s strike likely cost him a 20-win season both in 1994, when he had racked up 16 wins before the season abruptly ended in mid-August, and in 1995, when he won 19 games but was deprived at least three starts by the truncated 144-game schedule. In 1996 he couldn’t nail down a final victory after hitting 19 wins with four starts left. In the penultimate game of the season he staked the Orioles to a 2-1 lead only to watch closer Randy Myers let in the tying run in the ninth inning. In 1999 he won 18 games but missed four starts in August and September after he was struck in the right deltoid by a liner off the bat of Brook Fordyce.”
These quirks would be amusing in the same sort of vein as the purported Sports Illustrated Jinx and the Madden Cover Jinx except for the fact that an obsession with numbers among baseball writers could harm Mussina’s chances for the Hall of Fame.
Cameron Martin of Bugs and Cranks examines the meaning of 20 wins in relation to Mussina’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
“With a good, but not great career ERA (3.69), Mussina has an across-the-board resume of Very Good but Not Great accomplishments. In addition to his lack of Cy Youngs and 20-win seasons, he’s never played on a World Series winner; he’s 7-8 with a 3.42 ERA in 23 postseason games; and he has no signature games: No perfect games, no-hitters or Game 7 gems.
He almost pitched a perfect game against the Red Sox in 2001. He’s almost won 20 games several times. And he’s almost won a World Series ring (2001).
Right now, he’s Mr. Almost.
If he beats the Sox on Sunday, however, he’s probably going to the Hall of Fame. Maybe not in his first year of eligibility, but eventually. And all because of one win — a win that turns the very respectable ’19’ into the ‘great’ 20.”
Jim Palmer tells Roch Kubatko that Mussina belongs in the Hall regardless of whether he wins 20.
“‘Twenty wins doesn’t have the same cache as it once did,’ Palmer said. ‘If you came up in ’91 and pitched 17 or 18 years, and they said you were going to be one of the top five pitchers year in and year out, you’d be pretty pleased, wouldn’t you?’
Mussina’s last start produced his 269th career win, moving him past Palmer on the all-time list.
‘I always said I thought he was every bit as good as I was,’ Palmer said.
Palmer won three Cy Youngs. He has three World Series rings and eight 20-win seasons. But he’s convinced that Mussina belongs in the same Cooperstown residence.”
Mike Mussina started pitching in the big leagues in 1991, the same year that his future teammate Scott Erickson won 20 games for the Twins and Bill Gullickson won 20 for the Tigers. For perspective’s sake, consider Mike Mussina and his 269 career-win HOF candicacy against the likes of some other 20-game winners during his career: Bartolo Colon, Jamie Moyer (twice), Esteban Loaiza, Derek Lowe, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, and Rick Helling.
The last Oriole to win 20 games was Mike Boddicker in 1984.